This interview in Sunday´s supplement to La Prensa provides inside confirmation of a number of incidents that Nicaraguans themselves noted if they watched the same events on both government and independent media. A former editor of the principal FSLN on line media- El 19 Digital – shares his experience of seeing pro government media distort their reporting on events to discredit the opposition. Propagating this “fake news” finally led him to resign his post.
Carlos Mikel Espinoza: “I was an accomplice of the Ortega family”
A ruling party journalist felt he was an accomplice of the Ortega Murillos. He spent two months in an internal struggle: resign or continue. The straw that broke the camel´s back was a terrible thing: two children burned.
By Eduard Cruz, Sept 30, 2018
(translated from La Prensa Domingo)
On April 22 of this year, the journalist of El 19 Digital, Carlos Mikel Espinoza, was ordered to cover some looting that was occurring in some supermarkets in Managua. They were the first days of protest that the regime of Daniel Ortega repressed with weapons of war, causing the death of more than 500 Nicaraguans.
Carlos Mikel left to do the coverage accompanied by a photographer and convinced that the perpetrators of the looting were people who were protesting, because – he thought – they were enraged by the first deaths. According to reports from Human Rights organizations, that Sunday Nicaragua ended the day with a total of 30 deaths accumulated since the beginning of the protests.
When the El 19 Digital team of journalists arrived at the first of the supermarkets, Carlos Mikel was in for a surprise. “I realized that they were not doing the looting yet and we were already at the place to shoot the video”, recalls now the journalist. That was not the first time that Carlos Mikel felt that Daniel Ortega was willing to do anything to stay in power.
In the previous days, April 20 and 21, Carlos Mikel had been in between bullets and on the 21st he saw a scene that caused him enormous repulsion. “I was able to directly see in District One of the FSLN the first paramilitary. He was a short guy, like me. At the most he was 5 ft 6. He had long hair and it was curly. He was wearing blue shorts that were loose on him, a red shirt and some Rolter type sandals. He was carrying an AK. He was smoking cigarette after cigarette. A few meters away there was a Police patrol car. It was shocking for me to see this guy and other gang-members chatting with the Police agents”, said Carlos Mikel.
Two months later, Carlos Mikel resigned from El 19 Digital. He felt an accomplice of – according to him – what the Ortegas were doing to stay in power. “If you really love God you cannot be on the side of the Ortega Murillo justifying the cemetery that they have turned Nicaragua into,” he said.
On Friday April 20th, a 15 year old young man, student of Loyola, Álvaro Manuel Conrado Dávila, was killed when he was furtively carrying water to the university students who were gathering provisions in the Cathedral. A bullet entered his neck. “It hurts me to breathe,” he said while they unsuccessfully tried to help him.
When Carlos Mikel saw the news about the death of Álvaro Conrado he was in the offices of El 19 Digital. It struck him. He tried to hide the impact, but he cried when he was able to be alone. “It is a death over which I cried countless times in the next two months. Maybe because I heard so many vicious things against him and I ended up feeling partly to blame,” says the journalist
I was an accomplice of the Ortega family. Today I feel liberated and I do not regret having been thrown to a pack of wolves. If I was there they would have already fired me or something worse. My need for wanting normalcy ran up against deaths, torture, people taken prisoner, zombis, cynics and people who keep silent because they don´t want to lose their husband, their children, their spouse or their family,” Carlos Mikel Espinoza, in his Facebook account.
Based on what happened between April 18 and 22nd, Carlos Mikel spent two months in an internal struggle. Should he continue in El 19 Digital or resign? The decision was not easy. He was afraid.
In those days of April some journalists began to resign from their jobs in the communications media of the Government and allied media. Carlos Mikel remembers how those journalists that resigned began to be attacked in the social networks by those who at one time were their fellow workers. “The least offensive thing that they called them was rats”, remembers Carlos Mikel. Members of the Network of Communicators began to say that all those who had studied at the UCA were rightists and traitors. Carlos Mikel studied in the UCA. “I said that that argument was stupid and I quit participating in those groups in Whatsapp. The few times that I participated it was to try keep us as journalists from ending up where we finally did: defending the indefensible,” explained Carlos Mikel.
On a journalistic plane, Carlos Mikel was ashamed of the work that he was doing. “Every time there was an attack I would confront the information and see the omissions. I, for example, would see that the Police and the paramilitaries had attacked the Cathedral of Managua, but (in El 19 Digital) it was not published that way,” he said.
And the social media also left the El 19 Digital looking ridiculous. “I remember that in the social media it was a slaughterhouse. We the government media did not get get involved. We were getting completely rolled over. That is where some of the evidence of the crimes that the FSLN was committing. I was not going to argue with anyone about things that were obvious…Things were so gross that it even made you feel sorry,” indicated Carlos Mikel.
9 years Carlos Midel Espinoza worked in El 19 Digital, from 2009 until 2018. In the last two years he was editor and coordinator of journalists and photographers, work for which he never asked for a raise. Carlos Mikel stated that he worked in El 19 Digital for reasons other than money.
On the other hand, he also felt remorse for the people who were dying. He detested the paramilitaries and condemned the police who lent themselves to Ortega´s game.
I was crying when they told me how Mr. Álvaro Gómez cried for his son. How
each one of the parents cried when they lost their sons. I would see the poor dead policemen. I would say to myself that as a people we could not be killing ourselves in this way. But I also condemned the way the police were lending themselves to this type of actions outside the law,” recounted Carlos Mikel.
He spent those two months thinking about what to do. He did not want to leave without being able to tranquilly greet his ex fellow workers, “I did not want to leave the Government being labeled a traitor, I did not want to be accused of anything, I wanted to leave, and if I ran into some ex fellow workers in the street from any media of the Frente, to be able to greet them. I did not want them to call me a rat,” says Carlos Mikel.
The straw that broke the camel´s back
Last June 16 was a Saturday, and Carlos Mikel was not on duty, He was in his house in San Marcos, Carazo. He woke up and began to watch the news and there was a terrible image there: the bodies of two children burned during a fire in a house in the Carlos Marx neighborhood, attacked by paramilitaries. There were also the bodies of four adults, also burned.
That day he saw one death after another. A paramilitary who was burned in the middle of the street. An adolescent shot in the side. An elderly person shot in the head. “The counter-propaganda made me sick, the manipulation of an event as terrible as that of the Carlos Marx neighborhood…It hurt me because I was not being truthful. Even though I do not consider myself very religious, the truth is that I am very fearful of God. I felt that I was letting God down, I thought, and I continue to think, that if I really believed in God I could not continue being an accomplice of what the Ortegas were doing to stay in power,” says Carlos Mikel.
That same day Carlos Mikel sat down and began to write his resignation letter.
Then came the reprisal
On Monday June 18th Carlos Mikel turned in his resignation to El 19 Digital. He felt that they took awhile to accept it. At 4:00 the afternoon of the following day, Tuesday, he was leaving the office definitively. He took a bus at the UCA and then an interurban bus toward Carazo.
He was on the Southern Highway when he began to receive messages. Friends began to send him screen shots of hate messages from people who a few hours ago were his fellow workers in other Orteguista communications media.
“The called me a son of a …, traitor, deadbeat, that the Frente had given me everything and that was how I was paying them back, sell out, rat, and many fellow workers began to provoke me to see what mistake I would fall into, but I always responded with respect,” says Carlos Mikel.
In Costa Rica
When he left El 19 Digital, Carlos Mikel went home and since then has not been working. He did not join any barricade nor attend any demonstration.
He is a journalist, and since he was little he liked to write, which is why he did a blog to be able to let off steam: SpotlightNic. There Carlos Mikel showed the quality of the journalist that he is and his capacity to write. In El 19 Digital he was tired of writing about Daniel Ortega´s interventions, and every other day, the speeches of Rosario Murillo at noon.
Now he is in Costa Rica. He is not a refugee. He has not asked for asylum. He is thinking about returning to Nicaragua. He is afraid that they might do something to him. He also knows that if there were an order “from above” against him, he would no longer be alive.
“As things are now, a fanatic is another agent. Although I want to note that I do not see any reason for them to come after me. They do not have anything against me, because I have not done anything. I am clean. I have not even participated in marches. The only thing is that I am not in agreement with the Government, and I am not afraid of expressing my point of view to anyone. The freedom to say what I think I am not willing to cede ever,” finished Carlos Mikel Espinoza, today an ex-reporter for El 19 Digital.
José Miguel Fonseca
Many of the ex- fellow workers who have attacked Carlos Mikel Espinoza are journalists that he still respects. One stands out among the rest, and the only one that Carlos Mikel names: José Miguel Fonseca, the press director of Channel 4.
José Miguel and Carlos Mikel studied social communications together in the UCA. Friends. Classmates. They know one another well.
“I have known him since I was 17 years old and went to study in the UCA (in 2001). He mentioned my mother in a publication in Facebook. It is a fact that I have never offended José Miguel. Even though he mentioned my mother I did not want to go the same hateful level to talk about his mother. A mother is sacred,” explained Carlos Mikel.
Of all his ex fellow workers of El 19 Digital, only two called Carlos Mikel when he resigned from that media.
Lies about Carlos Mikel Espinoza
Leaving El 19 Digital did not mean just that his ex-fellow journalists would offend him, but that they also began to make up lies about him and his family. First they said that he was passing information to the right wing media, and then they said that his family were coup supporters and that he had coordinated barricades in Carazo.
“They (Orteguists) know very well that my family never participated in barricades. The people from Carazo who participated in the barricades were murdered, they are in jail or left in exile,” assured Carlos Mikel. “I do not know where they got the idea that I was a spy for the right and that for years I was an informant. They can ask Martha Espinoza (director of El 19 Digital) for whom I have a lot of respect. She will know how to stick to the truth,” concluded Carlos Mikel.
Since before the protests began last April, the journalist Carlos Mikel Espinoza was already frowned upon by his fellow workers at El 19 Digital. The reasons: not showing fidelity to Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, and also refusing to attack the priests when all the rest did.
“Several times I said out loud: the person who gets involved in fighting with the priests comes out crying,” related Carlos Mikel.
This journalist, originally from Ciudad Darío, but who has spent most of his life in Carazo, does not consider himself religious, but is fearful of God and declares himself to be an admirer of Mons. Silvio Báez.
“I cannot imagine seeing Silvio Báez playing the role of Sixto Ulloa, Omar Duarte or the role of Mons. Eddy Montenegro,” he said critically.
Daniel Ortega himself has attacked Catholic priests accusing them of being coup supporters. And several priests have ended up with injuries defending the population in the current crisis.